Two sinners joining to become one flesh in the marriage covenant can be quite messy. It can create a wonderful, gloriously good, beautiful mess, but it’s most often a mess any way you slice it. People often refer to marriage as hard. Is marriage hard?
In just a few weeks, my husband and I will be celebrating twenty years of marriage. I’m not sure how that happened because I’m still only twenty-five years old. Twenty years of all the stuff of life. The good, the great, the bad, the ugly, and the truly sinful – we’ve faced every bit of it, plus a little more.
I’ve cried myself to sleep praying over our marriage, and I’ve rejoiced in thankfulness for the blessing of my husband, and I’ve had every experience between those two.
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Sin is Easy
Sin is easy. Every human born on earth is born a sinner (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:2-3). Sin is natural for us. Sin is what we do as fleshly, unregenerate people on earth. We don’t have to decide to sin, it is the very blueprint of our Adamic hearts. No one seeks after God without God first seeking them (Psalm 14:2-3). I’m talking about what theologians refer to as original sin.
It is very natural for me to get angry at my husband and throw the stack of marriage books at his feet asking him if he even remembers what we learned in that marriage class we took at church. (Something I may or may not have done – not my proudest marriage moment to recall)
What’s unnatural is for me to treat my husband with kindness and grace and create an environment where he feels safe, loved, and blessed to be my spouse. It’s so unnatural to have this heart posture, that it’s hard.
The war between flesh and Spirit that every redeemed saint fights is a battle. Such an intense fight that Paul used language such as war, raging, battle, fight, and wrestle to describe the intensity (Galatians 5:15-17; Ephesians 6:10-20; Romans 7:21-25).
Because marriage is one of the most sanctifying experiences of a Christian’s life, the battle between flesh and Spirit is pronounced spectacularly in the context of marriage. Therefore, marriage is very hard at times. Marriage is hard because sin is easy.
Marriage Is Hard
I do not share these things to deter anyone from entering into marriage, per se, but I do want to implore those of you who perceive marriage to be the ultimate goal to consider the difficulties you may face. Count the cost when it comes to marriage, because there is a cost in anything worth doing.
I will concede that perhaps we should reframe our language when we speak of marriage. Perhaps we should not be so quick to hit the “marriage is hard” drum that we old married folk like to beat. Maybe a better phrase would be marriage is serious or marriage is transformative or marriage is refining.
Conversely, though, one cannot and should not make a blanket, experientially based statement like the following:
Because to be completely honest, marriage isn’t that hard.
To make such a statement unnecessarily heaps a heavy burden on some who might be facing fantastically difficult marriages. It could place a stumbling block and a heap of offense before a wife who is fighting every day to be a godly woman in the midst of a marriage that can only be described as painful.
We are not to cause others to sin. (1 Corinthians 10:32; Romans 14:13) This type of blanket statement could set off a tailspin of despair, causing one to think “If marriage isn’t that hard, then I must be doing something wrong.”
I have seen many difficult marriages in my lifetime and I have no doubt that I will see still more as I continue to care for women within the body of Christ.
- When you get a diagnosis of cancer, marriage is hard.
- When you receive news your child just died, marriage is hard.
- When your husband physically abuses you for decades, then leaves you for another woman, marriage is hard.
- When you miscarry a baby, again, for the fourth time, marriage is hard.
- When your husband is verbally abusive, and you live in fear of the first time his fist will fly, marriage is hard.
- When you go through 50 hours of labor to deliver a baby that you know has already been declared lifeless, marriage is hard.
- When the pregnancy test strip only has one pink stripe instead of two, again, for the 52nd month in a row (and you know because you’ve been counting), marriage is hard.
- When you choose life for a child the doctors say might only live a week past delivery, marriage is hard.
- When your husband molests your teenage daughter, marriage is hard.
- When your husband is addicted to pornography, marriage is hard.
- When your husband leaves you for another man, marriage is hard.
Every single example given above is a story I have personally had the privilege of walking through with a dear sister. Some of the marriages survived the tragedies and came out stronger. Some are hanging on by a thread even years later. And some, sadly, didn’t survive the pressures they faced.
Please be sure to note that many of the circumstances above are not punitive results of sin. Sin is easy, but we live in a fallen world. Every bad thing that happens to me is not necessarily a result of sin on my part. Sometimes, the Lord simply allows refining fires in our lives so we can become more Christlike. (Job 23:10) Often, marriage is the crucible the Lord chooses to sanctify us most.
God’s Grace is Greater Than My Hard Marriage
I have had my share of marriage difficulties as well. I am learning how to refrain from sinning in response to being sinned against by others. The Lord has most definitely used marriage as a crucible of refinement for me, and I have no doubt that He will continue to use this divine sanctifier for His good purposes.
Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin.
There is no easy sin that I can commit against my husband or anyone else that there isn’t still greater grace to cover. Truly loving my spouse means that I extend infinite grace to him, just as Christ has done for me (1 Peter 4:8). The sins committed against me by my spouse are never more grave than my own heinous sin that put Christ on the cross.
The Gospel didn’t come to us easily. Christ went through unequivocal hardship to purchase our redemption on the cross. Yes, sin makes life hard. Oh, but my dear friend, the Gospel is even harder. To extend the Gospel to our spouses, we must first walk through the cross of Christ. The Gospel should remind us how truly hard grace can be.
A blood-bought child of God living in the covenant of marriage is a picture to the world not only of the love of Christ, but of the hardship that love cost Him. We demonstrate to the watching world that love comes at a price. That price is sacrificial service to the bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. We die to ourselves and become one flesh with another human. This, my friends, is hard. But it is gloriously good and infinitely rewarding.
Also published on Medium.